Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Audibles at the Line: Week 12
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Bill Barnwell

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Thursday, November 25

New England Patriots 42 at Detroit Lions 25

Aaron Schatz: Belichick's thing with playing cornerbacks on specific sides is going to turn Devin McCourty into Nnamdi Asomugha. Put best wide receiver near Kyle Arrington. Touchdown Calvin Johnson. Rinse. Repeat.

What was extra-strange there was that on that play, the Patriots DID switch their cornerbacks. McCourty was covering Burleson over on the left, and Arrington was covering Calvin Johnson on the right. If you don't believe in switching your corners, why on earth would you switch them to put the inferior corner on one of the three or four best wideouts in the league?

Bill Barnwell: As Tom Kowalski pointed out on Twitter, Pettigrew beat his guy at the line and locked the safety into the middle of the field, getting Johnson into the one-on-one matchup and making an easy back-shoulder read for Hill. I agree that Arrington blows, but Asomugha wasn't stopping that, let alone McCourty.

Liked Shaun Hill's second tuck and run, on a screen where Andre Brown got kneecapped and there were a bunch of linemen out there without any guy to throw to. Made up for missing a wide-open Burleson on the run earlier on in the first quarter.

Doug Farrar: Ndamukong Suh's two most exceptional qualities -- his closing speed and upper-body strength -- have been on display early in this game. I don't know that I've ever seen a 310-pound tackle make up a two-yard space this quickly, and the way he just blew off Logan Mankins's blocking attempt on the Brady sack was pretty exceptional.

Aaron Schatz: Golly, Patriots special teams look awful today. Brandon Tate on two straight kickoffs has not been able to get back to the 20. If you try to return the kickoff and don't get back to the 20, that's a serious FAIL.

Bill Barnwell: Great moment in Simms: Brandon Pettigrew catches a pass and Simms goes into his "I am going to say some nice things about this player that have no relationship to the play that just happened" post-good play analyst bit over a replay. Simmsentary, Grudentary, whatever you want to call it. During the replay, the ball literally comes out of Pettigrew's hands and bounces off a Patriots player before bouncing, still on the fly, back into Pettigrew's hands. Does Simms stop the Simmsentary? No. Why would he?

Think you have to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line there, as the Lions successfully did. It's 17-17 with 20 minutes to go. You're not shutting out the Patriots the rest of the way.

How many broken tackles does Alphonso Smith get on the 79-yard touchdown pass? Three?

Aaron Schatz: To say good things about the Lions, I'm really impressed by Scott Linehan's play calling today. I've liked the play calls on the fourth-and-shorts, I liked the reverse there to Calvin Johnson, he's gotten guys open with plays, the tight end screen to Pettigrew was good. A good mix of stuff.

Bill Barnwell: Oh, yeah, I don't think that makes sense; if we had three separate guys trying to make those tackles, it'd be three broken tackles, so it seems reasonable to charge Smith with three whiffs there.

How to prevent Kyle Arrington from ending up in coverage against Calvin Johnson? The Patriots just lined him up in a three-point stance as a defensive lineman as part of a three-man front. Seriously. Not part of some elaborate blitz package, either; New England rushed three and Arrington was just like a DL. I'm told on Twitter that the Patriots did that a few times last week, too? What on Earth?

Tom Gower: Adam Caplan said Cosell said they did that 10-12 times last week.

Doug Farrar: Phil Simms doesn't believe in quarterback rating -- not because it's archaic and incomplete, but because "I go by what I see." I really want to introduce him to the concept of DVOA, just to see if his head would explode.

New Orleans Saints 30 at Dallas Cowboys 27

Bill Barnwell: One of the commentators mentioned that Gregg Williams told him the Cowboys have committed to running the ball more frequently under Jason Garrett. Of course. Nothing to do with their two wins under Garrett. Number of carries in first half per game under Wade Phillips: 12. Under Garrett: Nine.

And then Aikman comes back in the second quarter and basically says "Yeah, that's a myth, they've been running the ball a lot in the fourth quarter." That was weird.

The Cowboys were stuffed on fourth-and-1 earlier in the game when they ran a pitch to Marion Barber and none of the linebackers got blocked. So this time, they're down 17-0 with six minutes left and have fourth-and-1 inside the five-yard line. They kick the field goal because ...

Dallas later went for it and converted on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line on a simple handoff to Barber, making it 23-20. Came after a wonderful one-two punch from Reggie Bush, who dropped a touchdown pass on one end and then fumbled a punt on the other one. Bush does his job right, it's 27-13 and the game is over. Instead, 23-20.

Six fumbles in this game. Cowboys have exhibited their distaste for Wade Phillips by recovering all six of them.

And about 90 seconds after I send that, Roy Williams fumbles to make it six out of seven.

Doug Farrar: Over at least the last two weeks, Jabari Greer is doing a pretty good job of making the point that the whole “shutdown corner” title is a very fragile entity.

I have it on good authority that Andy Reid and Mike Holmgren both vehemently approve of Jason Garrett’s two-minute offense concept. Methinks Garrett’s going to be very unhappy when he discovers that timeouts aren’t like monthly cell minutes – they don’t roll over. Spotting a kicker 30 extra yards you know he can’t make? Yeesh.

Aaron Schatz: Saw bits of pieces of this game at my uncle's house, including the last three minutes after dessert. I wanted to comment on a couple of things about the final Dallas drive. First, this was the first play of the drive:

1-10-DAL-24 (1:50) (Shotgun) 3-J.Kitna scrambles up the middle to DAL 29 for 5 yards (91-W.Smith).

Now, as it turns out, the Cowboys did not run out of time on the last drive, they ran out of downs. But still, Jon, you are a 67-year NFL veteran or something. You don't know to throw the ball away when you are trying to conserve time? What was more important, the five yards you got on this scramble or the 28 seconds you wasted between this play and the next one on second-and-5?

Also, I noticed an interesting thing on the rest of the drive. I don't know if this was about experience or about how the Saints were covering things, or just random chance, but most of the movement came on three straight passes to Jason Witten for 28 yards. But on the final set of downs, all three incomplete passes were intended for Dez Bryant. Not that all the incompletes were his fault -- the second one definitely wasn't, tipped away by Roman Harper at the line of scrimmage, but still... interesting. All they needed was one catch in that set, five or six yards, and Buehler likely hits the tying field goal.

Cincinnati Bengals 10 at New York Jets 26

David Gardner: Now that I've seen the announcing crew for this booth, I'm considering switching to the Taylor Swift documentary on NBC.

Bill Barnwell: Theismann notes that the banter between Revis and Owens is so interesting because Revis said he, himself, was an "average" cornerback. Millen actually has to correct him.

Millen notes that the Jets should challenge Jonathan Wade because they don't know if he's in shape or how he tackles. Of all the reasons to challenge Jonathan Wade, those are two reasons that have no relationship to him being new on a defense. He was on a roster two weeks ago, and I mean, tape of him exists. The Jets can probably figure out if he can tackle.

Mike Tanier: I am loving these Brad Smith plays on second-and-10 and second-and-24.

Aaron Schatz: Also lovin' Brad Smith on second-and-24: the Bengals.

Boy, the James Ihedigbo roughing the passer on fourth-and-3 to extend a Bengals drive in the third quarter was really iffy. They flagged him for leading with his head, but he hit Palmer in the chest, and I'm not really sure how else you are supposed to tackle a guy. If you put your arms up to get a guy, you can't help it. Your arms come off your shoulders, and right between your shoulders is your head. That's where it is. You can't remove it and put it on your ass for safekeeping until the tackle is over.

Doug Farrar: We're going to have to get used to these, I suppose. Last Sunday, LaMarr Woodley and Raheem Brock were each handed totally bogus roughing penalties. They're either going to have to alter the rule or start calling the rule correctly again.

Bill Barnwell: So this week, it's a 27-yard missed field goal and a fumbled punt that didn't appear to be fumbled (and almost certainly should have been challenged) (and came after Jonathan Wade barely missed a pick-six).

Carson Palmer's passes all come out like he's tapped the pass button by accident.

Vince Verhei: The fourth quarter of Bengals-Jets was pretty much the only football I got to see today. Which means I was treated to Brad Smith's kickoff return touchdown and what seemed like dozens of terrible Cincinnati screen passes. I thought this might be a trend and looked it up, but no -- the Jets have been above average but nothing special against passes thrown behind the line of scrimmage, and the Bengals offense has actually been pretty effective throwing them.

Mike Tanier: Hey: Three catches for 17 yards, T.O. Thanks for running your mouth off there.

Sunday, November 28

Green Bay Packers 17 at Atlanta Falcons 20

David Gardner: So I have the Falcons-Packers game early, and all the pre-game talk was about how good the are at home. It just made me wonder, Why? They aren't an especially fast team, where playing on turf would be a huge advantage. And the Georgia Dome isn't that loud. So why the huge advantage for them at home?

Bill Barnwell: It's the combination of a good running game (allowing them to kill games when they're ahead) and a fluky performance in a small sample size (think about the last-second win over the Ravens and, sorry, Blount getting stuffed at the two-yard line).

Vince Verhei: Maybe it's not that that they're better at home, it's that they fall apart on the road. It's kind of a chicken-or-egg issue.

Bill Barnwell: Packers just rushed four against the Falcons' five linemen on a third down in the first quarter and I think all four guys might have beat their blockers. At least three did.

Aaron Schatz: Aaron Rodgers is killing the Falcons' zone coverage with scrambles. First quarter isn't over yet, and we're already at four carries for 24 yards.

David Gardner: Yeah, I'm not sure if that was part of the game plan, but the Packers' tackles are forcing the Falcons' ends up field and giving Rodgers some great lanes. And each time the Falcons blitz, the Packers are getting big opportunities in the passing game.

Also, the Falcons, the least penalized team in the league, have three personal fouls already -- and we are barely into the second quarter.

Bill Barnwell: Falcons have now stuffed the Packers three times inside their own five-yard line; the third stuff is the best of all, as Aaron Rodgers loses the ball on a quarterback sneak and the Falcons recover it in the end zone for a touchback.

Great job by Ovie Mughelli on a third-and-19 checkdown, running through two ankle tackles to get 16 yards. Falcons then pick up the first down on fourth-and-3, getting it on a throw to Tony Gonzalez.

David Gardner: A throw that, by the way, Gonzalez didn't actually catch.

Bill Barnwell: True. The Falcons went no-huddle, but took 35 seconds between that play and snapping the ball, which makes me wonder whether they were trying to fake McCarthy into not challenging by generally taking their time.

David Gardner: He definitely caught that touchdown though.

Nice call by the Packers on third-and-1: a flea-flicker. It almost blew up in the backfield, but ended up gaining 40 yards.

Bill Barnwell: That play is followed by a string of four interesting ones in a row. Rodgers scrambles on first down and, during his slide, gets knocked down by Sean Weatherspoon's helmet; almost hit Rodgers in the helmet, but actually appeared to get his shoulder. Nearly started a fight. Next play, Rodgers gets hit and his pass is nearly picked off by a Falcons defender; replay suggest the Falcons could have challenged the play, but as the announcers says "It appears that [Michael] Smith is going to challenge", Rodgers snaps the ball and throws a lob to Jordy Nelson to get the ball down to the three-yard line. It's another throw going after Brent Grimes in one-on-one coverage. Rodgers then splits everyone out and runs a quarterback draw for a touchdown that Billick calls out in advance. Rodgers then does the "I want the title" motion, which I don't get.

David Gardner: Falcons go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 after three near-misses, and they get it on a Turner run. Fortune favors the bold.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, Green Bay. Why, why, why, why do you go empty backfield on fourth-and-1 and take away even just the threat of the run? Why?

Bill Barnwell: Because their running back has seven carries for nine yards! And, alternately, because they wanted to convince the Packers that they might go quarterback draw with Rodgers again.

Aaron Schatz: Attention Thomas DeCoud, please do not do an "I missed the interception dance." Notice the word "missed" in that sentence.

Bill Barnwell: On the other hand, nice work by DeCoud to force a wide-open James Jones out of bounds as he came down.

Aaron Rodgers with a HUGE shovel pass to pick up fourth-and-1. Not only huge because it was incredibly important, but huge because it probably traveled twice as long as the average shovel pass.

David Gardner: Matt Bryant sends a game-winning field goal right down Broadway, but McCarthy calls timeout. Then Bryant does it again.

Tennessee Titans 0 at Houston Texans 20

Tom Gower: We have an early "Burn This Play" nominee, as a zone blitz by the Titans leaves DE William Hayes in coverage on Arian Foster with predictable results. The drive eventually stalls out after they go for it on fourth-and-5 from the Titans 37 and Schaub throws three yards short of the sticks.

Vince Verhei: Houston has a fourth-and-1 just outside their own 40. They line up to punt, then call timeout. After the timeout, they punt anyway. Apparently the play clock was about to expire, an they decided it was better to waste a timeout than give up five yards near midfield when they were going to punt anyway. I'm actually angry about this, and I don't even cheer for Houston, so I can only imagine how their fans feel.

Tim Gerheim: At least they got off a killer punt they downed inside the five. After a Chris Johnson run for a loss, Rusty Smith had to throw from his end zone and chucked up a Hail Maryish interception.

Tom Gower: Rusty Smith has now completed one of his first six passes, hitting Randy Moss for 14 yards on third down for a conversion. I'll take, even though I think he was trying to throw the ball to Justin Gage ... and he's now 3 for 8, completing two dumpoffs after an ill-conceived handoff to Nate Washington loses 8 yards on first down. This is why starting rookie sixth-round picks at quarterback is a bad idea.

Aaron Schatz: The loss of eight yards was way better than last year's ill-conceived handoff to Nate Washington against the Patriots, which lost something like 15 yards.

Tom Gower: I hereby nominate Rusty Venture as the official nickname.

The Titans offense looks like it's the third quarter of a preseason game. They got a first down completion to Moss that looked like a lucky accident, with the intended receiver actually being Gage about five yards short and five yards inside Moss. The next play was an atrocious reverse losing 8 yards followed by an incompletion and checkdown fiesta.

Tim Gerheim: This Texans-Titans game has an interesting running back contrast, Johnson's boom or bust style against Arian Foster's consistency. What I love most about Foster is that he always seems to pick up at least a few yards. He's slippery and good at shifting his body around to make himself narrow, so he's great at slipping the first tackler and falling forward.

Tom Gower: I think Moss just got another accidental reception on the same play as the last one. Even though it's been successful against the comical Texans pass defense, a play like that with two receivers close enough that we can't tell who the intended is should be burned post haste.

Aaron Schatz: If the new Titans quarterback is Rusty Venture, Randy Moss is definitely Sergeant Hatred. And the Texans secondary may be the only group in the world more inept than the Monarch's henchmen.

Tom Gower: I think what the Titans are doing is trying to play a two-man game to create very simple reads for Rusty. That's a feature, not a bug, with the added side benefit that some of the lousy throws may also end up completions.

Meanwhile, Tim nailed it earlier - the Titans offense looks like it's IN a preseason game with nothing installed and where they're giving reps to guys who may not be in the team in two weeks.

Vince Verhei: At halftime, Tennessee has 13 passes and only six runs (three by Chris Johnson, two by Javon Ringer, and the aforementioned Nate Washington debacle). I don't know if this game plan was designed by the Guild of Calamitous Intent, but it has had calamitous results.

Tim Gerheim: Brice McCain wears number 21. I only wish Kareem Jackson was 24 instead of 25.

I wonder what proportion of the readership is utterly confused at this point.

Vince Verhei: Tennessee's latest series: completion for negative yards, completion for 7 yards that is called back for offensive pass interference, checkdown for 10 yards on third- and-20 something. Every time Smith drips back I hear "I'M RUSTY!" being sung in my head.

Aaron Schatz: The adjustment for backup quarterbacks in the "premium picks" formula may not be strong enough. We may need to change the setting for Smith from "third quarterback" to "ninth quarterback" or something.

Doug Farrar: With 13:11 left in the fourth quarter, the Titans cross into enemy territory for the first time in the game. It took a Marc Mariani punt return and an unnecessary roughness call on the Texans to make it happen. The beginning of the Rusty Smith era is hereby officially summarized.

Mike Tanier: Hello Rusty Smith. Goodbye playoff chances. This kid is Brad Goebel-level overmatched.

Bill Barnwell: Classic moment: Rusty Smith throws an ugly interception in the red zone. CBS cuts to the crowd, where his grandfather is sternly shaking his head in a disappointed manner. Needs to be an animated GIF now.

Vince Verhei: Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson just got in the biggest fight I've seen in a while. Both helmets got yanked off, and Johnson was throwing punches as Finnegan was on the ground. Both were ejected, and Finnegan's letting the Houston fans hear it as he leaves the field. You know, with the light skin and the short Afro, he actually looks like Josh Koscheck. I suspect they'll both be suspended.

Tom Gower: I believe Johnson also got Jason Jones tossed in last year's Texans-Titans game in Tennessee by punching him in the face in a scuffle in the Texans bench area (yes).

Tim Gerheim: Rusty Venture even has the right ginger facial hair. He's an awful passer. He's overthrown the few wide open receivers he's found, and he's thrown two interceptions to the Texans' good (at least relatively speaking) cornerback, Glover Quin, the second at least on a terrible underthrow. That was a play or two after he underthrew his receiver so badly that it hit the faceguarding Bernard Pollard in the back of the calf. (It was a positive play because of the pass interference by the crack pass coverage.)

Vince Verhei: Tennessee just got the ball back with three minutes to go. They have four first downs on the game. The record is six. Here we go!

Titans actually march down the field in garbage time -- more than doubling their first down total -- before Brian Cushing breaks up a pass, leading to the Texans' third interception of the day, and their eighth of the season. I'M RUSTY!

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at New York Giants 24

Tim Gerheim: The Jags just ran the option David Garrard picked up about nine. Has that been a part of their gameplans this year? This was one play after a long MJD run featuring Giants defenders who seemed quite uninterested in actually tackling him.

Bill Barnwell: David Garrard picked up a third down by scrambling from outside the right hashmarks all the way to outside the left hashmarks, juking out Justin Tuck in the process. A few plays later, Garrard scored from five yards out by doing the opposite, ending up in the middle and juking out another Giants player. This is the same defense that was able to slow down Michael Vick's scramble game?

Aaron Schatz: Nobody knows what happened to Michael Clayton's receiving ability after his one-hit wonder rookie year, but we know his run-blocking ability never disappeared. Giants signed him this week and he just hit a good block to help get Ahmad Bradshaw a first down on third-and-2 near the goal line.

Pittsburgh Steelers 19 at Buffalo Bills 16

Vince Verhei: Antwaan Randle El threw an incomplete pass in the first quarter. It was wiped out by a Buffalo offsides penalty. Then they put Randle El's career passing numbers on the screen: 21-of-26 for 300-plus yards, 5 touchdowns, no interceptions. At that rate, doesn't he need to throw at least one pass every game until it stops working?

I really liked some of the play designs on Pittsburgh's latest drive. They used a lot of sets with two tight ends to one side. On one play they ran a zone stretch to the weak side, and when Rashard Mendenhall cut back he had plenty of room thanks the double road graders on that side. Later, Ben Roethlisberger play-faked to the weakside, then rolled back behind the two tight ends. He had plenty of time and hit Hines Ward for a first down. The drive eventually stalled just outside of field- goal range. The Steelers lined up to go for it, then Roethlisberger quick-kicked. The ball rolled into the end zone, but that's just bad execution -- it was still great design.

On the next drive, after some questionable roughing the passer and pass interference penalties on the Steelers, Fred Jackson lines up at wide receiver and takes a screen pass 65 yards for a touchdown. 13-7 Steelers.

David Gardner: Steve Johnson just dropped a slightly high pass at the goal line with the Bills down 16-13. Then Polamalu intercepted it off the tip. Stinks for the Bills and for my fantasy team.

Aaron Schatz: What the heck went wrong with the Steelers today?

Bill Barnwell: Steelers have had a few key drops, offensive line has struggled. Big game from Kyle Williams.

Bill Barnwell: Oh my. Stevie Johnson just dropped a wide open pass in the end zone for what would have been the game-winning score. Three yards past the last defender. CBS says he has five drops today. That has to be the worst drop of the season.

Vince Verhei: Just got finished with that ridiculous PIT-BUF overtime. In addition to the Johnson drop, Buffalo also got a sack-fumble inside the Pittsburgh 1, but Roethlisberger recovered, and eventually Buffalo stopped stopping the Pittsburgh running game.

A few reasons the game went to OT in the first place: the turnovers, and also the one big play on the screen pass. But mostly it was the extremely "short" game played in the first half. Bills only had the ball for the about six minutes in the first half, but Pittsburgh was just making these long, interminable drives that kept both teams off the scoreboard. I think each team had three first-half drives. So Pittsburgh was playing much better, but it was still a close game. Then Buffalo made most of the big plays in the second half.

Carolina Panthers 23 at Cleveland Browns 24

Bill Barnwell: Browns had the ball inside the five-yard line and handed the ball to Peyton Hillis. I know, shocking. What was surprising, though, is that Hillis then went to pass the ball to Benjamin Watson, who was wide open as can be in the end zone. Hillis threw it behind Watson, though. Drive was extended when Evan Moore drew an illegal contact penalty, caught the ball anyway, but then got laid out by a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone by Sherrod Martin. Hillis scores on a sweep on the next play.

Jimmy Clausen just threw a pass while he was nearly horizontal, falling down. The only reason it wasn't intercepted was that two Browns defenders had equally large eyes for it.

Evan Moore's great day continues with a fumble inside the Panthers' five-yard line.

Doug Farrar: Jake Delhomme has fumbled, thrown a pick, and thrown another pick that was returned for a touchdown. He hasn’t done this much to help the Panthers win since about 2005.

David Gardner: Also, smart play by Joe Haden, who intercepted a Jimmy Clausen pass, and then slid to be safe rather than trying to return it.

The Panthers get the ball back.

Bill Barnwell: Mike Goodson just made an amazing catch and run in Carolina, gaining something like 40 yards and breaking four tackles in the process, to get the Panthers to midfield with 12 seconds left and no timeouts. Panthers are warming up Rhys Lloyd, their kickoff guy, to set up for what might be a 60-yarder.

Wow. And then Clausen completes a deep out, of all things, for another first down. It's a questionable catch, and despite the fact that Brandon LaFell got out of bounds and the clock is stopped, Fox tries to get Jimmy Clausen to sprint up to the line and spike it so it can't be challenged. Doesn't work. Panthers get the pass, but Kasay pushes the 41-yarder onto the upright and the Browns end up with a 24-23 win.

Kansas City Chiefs 42 at Seattle Seahawks 24

Doug Farrar: And the questions about Jeremy Bates’ short-yardage playcalling continue. On a first-quarter fourth-and-1 play, it’s an incomplete sideline pass to receiver Golden Tate, who’s been out for the last few games. Something in this guy’s brain has him convinced that he has to draw up the goofiest stuff in those situations.

Bill Barnwell: Major problems for Chiefs special teams. The first quarter's not done, and the Seahawks have blocked a field goal and now a punt, with Earl Thomas picking up the punt and returning it for six.

I'm going to speculate that Dwayne Bowe vs. Walter Thurmond will be a mismatch.

Doug Farrar: Kind of a defensive fail by the Seahawks – Thurmond’s a decent nickel guy and can play sideline pretty well, but on a team with one effective wide receiver, why not just have Kelly Jennings go with Bowe either side?

Aaron Schatz: Todd Haley Self-Parody Watch: Halfway into the second quarter, we're at nine carries, 20 yards for Thomas Jones and eight carries, 74 yards for Jamaal Charles.

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks are showing better outside tackling discipline than I've seen from them all season, especially from Aaron Curry, but yeah -- they don't really have a consistent answer for Charles.

Dwayne Bowe vs. Roy Lewis = equal mismatch.

Bill Barnwell: This week in Chiefs goal line adventures: Handoff to Shaun Smith for a touchdown. If anyone doesn't need their ego fed, it's Shaun Smith.

I mean, there is something to the idea that not using Charles as the everydown back and keeping him well-rested; maybe he wouldn't be as effective with twice the carries. But definitely, the optimal point between "keep Charles fresh" and "use him to excess" is somewhere to the right.

Seahawks called for intentional grounding when two wideouts run into each other and Matt Hasselbeck throws deep to what appears to be nobody. Hasselbeck is livid and needs to be restrained on the sideline (although he's livid in a puffy coat, which makes it difficult to look angry). It's pretty clear that one of the guys was going to be heading deep.

Vince Verhei: Hasselbeck was called for intentional grounding even though he was standing in the pocket completely unperturbed. Didn't we just have this discussion, that part of the rule says the quarterback must be under pressure?

Kansas City's latest touchdown shows that Bowe vs. Nobody is also a mismatch.

Bill Barnwell: One other legit reason Charles might sit a little more than we like: Fumbles. He's got nine fumbles in about 500 pro touches, including one that set up the Seahawks for a field goal to end the half. Jones has three on about as many touches over the past couple of seasons.

Doug Farrar: The Seahawks end their first half with incomplete deep sideline passes to Deon Butler on the left and right sidelines on two straight plays, followed by a field goal. Seattle was outgained, 302-71 in the first half, and Brandon Stokley had the two longest plays -- nine and 12 yards. Wherever he is, Mike Williams' agent currently has a cake-eating grin on his face.

That second throw was intended for the imaginary box over Plaxico Burress's head.

Bill Barnwell: That one was actually up a vine that Deon Butler was supposed to climb up to make the play. And then he was going to walk on a series of clouds to the end zone.

Great, great play by Matt Cassel to spin out of a pass pressure and hit Dwayne Bowe in stride for a first down. Chris Clemons just blew by fill-in left tackle Barry Richardson at the snap; Cassel barely had the (shotgun) snap in his hands by the time he had to scramble.

CBS just put a graphic up comparing the rushing yards of the Seahawks and "M.Cassell".

Aaron Schatz: From the network that employs Phil "Asante Samuels" Simms.

Bill Barnwell: Long touchdown pass to Ben Obomanu on a play where the safety on that side appeared to be pulled towards the line of scrimmage by magnets. Total blown coverage.

Aaron Schatz: Matt Cassel just threw his fourth touchdown of the day. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the defenses of the NFC West.

Doug Farrar: I see your defenses of the NFC West and raise you the 5-6, first-place, St. Louis Rams.

Aaron Schatz: At least they have a stud quarterback. S-T-U-D.

Doug Farrar: Yes, they certainly do.

Miami Dolphins 33 at Oakland Raiders 17

Bill Barnwell: Jacoby Ford is the Raiders offense. He returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown, and he just made a great play as a wideout, luring the defensive back to sleep before suddenly leaping in the air at the last moment to make a catch and then run for his second TD of the day.

Dolphins just had third-and-12 and brought in Tyler Thigpen. Why would you bring in Tyler Thigpen for one play? Why, a quarterback draw. It didn't get the first down. It sounded like Steve Tasker called this a "racing form" play. No idea what that means.

Mike Tanier: I kind of like that strategy for their situation. They should give Thigpen a series or two, just to give the defense something else to worry about.

Now they are shuffling Henne and Thigpen. They are running some half-hearted options.

Doug Farrar: The Dolphins put the Wildcat in motion a couple of years ago out of desperation. It worked for a long time and proved their ability to think outside the box. Tyler Thigpen was an effective Pistol quarterback in Kansas City. The Dolphins ran the Pistol last year with Pat White, and it was the only time Pat White did anything in the NFL. I hate to sound like a broken record about the Pistol, but there’s a real disconnect in this case.

Bill Barnwell: That dominant Raiders rushing game has gotten ten carries for one yard from their running backs today. That's not ten carries for one yard each and a bunch of other carries. That's ten carries for a combined one yard.

Philadelphia Eagles 26 at Chicago Bears 31

Aaron Schatz: Trent Cole: Does any other defensive player in the NFL have a bigger gap between quality and publicity?

Bears are really doing a good job of coverage early on against Philadelphia. Safeties are super deep to prevent those Eagles bombs. Vick isn't finding anyone open, so Bears keep eventually getting to him with a four-man rush.

Vince Verhei: "Burn this play" of the year: Vick pitches left to a slot back coming to the right across the backfield. Vick then picots and steps to throw a LEAD BLOCK. he actually did a decent job, holding up 90 just long enough for the runner to pick up the third-and-1. But still.

Vick then throws a touchdown pass on third down to pull within four, 14-10.

Mike Tanier: The Eagles may want to block Julius Peppers when Vick rolls to his side of the field.

Aaron Schatz: Vick is having a hell of a time with the Bears stadium turf. Can they not get him the proper cleats or something?

Mike Tanier: Geez...I give my kid a bath and it's 28-13 Bears all of a sudden? I do not even want to look at my DVR.

Aaron Schatz: Andy Reid takes a timeout rather than take a delay of game on third-and-19. They come back from the timeout and run... a give-up draw. What, you couldn't run that play from third-and-24?

Doug Farrar: Mike Holmgren approves of this strategy.

Mike Tanier: This is one of those Bad Eagles game. Reid is calling dumb timeouts. They weren't running the ball. The Eagles are goofing off in the red zone. They have Cutler hemmed in, and he farts the ball to Matt Forte for a first down. I have seen this game 20 times in the last decade. Only the quarterback has changed.

Vince Verhei: Eagles add a field goal after a really nice play -- a fake quarterback sneak where Vick inched into the line, then peeled off to the left. Bears weren't fooled and had a chance to make a stop, but Vick gained just enough for the first down.

Aaron Schatz: Eagles just kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the four, score 31-13. I suppose that puts you in position to tie with two touchdowns, but if you are going to go all the way down the field like that doesn't it make sense to try to put it in the end zone, so that later you can go for a 38-yard field goal instead of trying to score a touchdown from the 20 or something?

I would also suggest that the Eagles miss their two starting cornerbacks today. Ellis Hobbs isn't really any better than Joselio Hanson, but Asante Samuel definitely is, and missing Hobbs as well moves everybody up another level and the depth isn't there for nickel and dime.

Bill Barnwell: I can see both sides of that argument. Pinning the Bears deep in their own territory with a miss wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, either.

Aaron Schatz: And on cue, the announcers show stats that Cutler has almost all his success today with throws to the right side, where Samuel normally would be and Hanson is today. Interesting that the Bears are targeting longtime Eagles nickelback Hanson and not career journeyman Dimitri Patterson.

Bill Barnwell: Eagles just kicked a field goal down 31-16 with six minutes left. Granted, they were on fourth-and-goal from the 18-yard line, but how does that improve their situation? Then they kick deep? What on earth?

Mike Tanier: Eagles red zone offense fills me with ennui.

Bill Barnwell: Oh. Andy Reid realized that Mike Martz was going to be unable to resist the urge to throw on third-and-8 when the Eagles had no timeouts left.

Aaron Schatz: HOLY CRAP. Brent Celek just caught a stutter-go seam pass on fourth down with three Chicago Bears defenders (Brian Urlacher, plus two deep safeties) converging on him. I have no idea how he came out with the ball. Not for the first down -- for the touchdown.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10 at Baltimore Ravens 17

David Gardner: Tim Ryan, the commentator for Bucs-Ravens just called Ray Lewis "a great human." A note to all commentators: great football player ≠ great human.

The Bucs are blitzing Flacco a lot early, with mostly bad results.

Bill Barnwell: Right on cue, the Bucs rush three and Joe Flacco tries to force a throw late into a hole in zone; Aqib Talib jumps it and picks the pass off, holding it between his knees at first.

David Gardner: Unfortunately, Cody Grimm just got bent over backward on the return and taken off on a stretcher. Tough play to watch.

Of Freeman's 16 rushes on third down this season, 13 have gone for first downs. He just did it on third-and-7 in the red zone, which led to a chip shot field goal to tie the game.

Todd Heap just got a 60-yard touchdown, courtesy of Sabby Piscitelli. It was Cover-1 with Sean Jones on the wrong side of the field.

And after a very questionable pass interference call against Myron Lewis, Flacco finds Mason in the end zone to put the game at 17-3.

Ray Rice just had a 70-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass called back on a hold.

Micheal Spurlock channeled his inner Stevie Johnson by dropping a wide-open touchdown pass that would have brought the Bucs within a score.

St. Louis Rams 36 at Denver Broncos 33

Bill Barnwell: We say mean things about announcers, so here's a nice one: John Lynch did a really great job in the Denver-St. Louis game over a replay of explaining why Mario Haggan needed to set the edge, how he was supposed to do it, what he did wrong, and what the result was.

Vince Verhei: Sam Bradford, by the way, has three touchdowns today and 17 on the year. That ties him with Otto Graham and Ben Roethlisberger for 12th place among rookies. Record is 26 by Peyton Manning.

Rams give up a 41-yard touchdown bomb to Brandon Lloyd. Rams add a field goal, then Kyle Orton drives the Broncos for another touchdown. They missed the two-point try, though. They've got the ball again, but down ten instead of eight with less than five minutes to go.

Broncos get another touchdown and they trail by three. With 2:35 to go, they try an onsides kick. Boy do I hate that call -- you're rolling, and that's plenty of time to get a stop and get the ball back.

Bill Barnwell: Well, the Broncos get a partially blocked punt from former Notre Dame safety David Bruton after stopping Jackson on third-and-short to get the ball back with great field position and a minute to go. Considering it's in Denver, they only need 20 yards or so for a field goal to get a reasonably makeable kick.

Ryan Harris is getting worked by Chris Long (who is this year's Tamba Hali) on this final series: Long sacks Orton on first down, draws a hands to the face on third down, and then beats Harris to hit Kyle Orton in his motion and force an incompletion on fourth down.

San Diego Chargers 36 at Indianapolis Colts 14

Aaron Schatz: We're not going to see a lot of defense tonight, are we?

Mike Tanier: I just saw some defense! Kevin Burnett's interception. The Chargers do know how to frustrate themselves some Peyton.

The Chargers aren't running a lot of crazy stuff on defense. On the Burnett interception, it looks like they moved guys around in the underneath zones, but the second interception looked like a vanilla pass rush, Peyton Manning just threw a lousy pass. They aren't shifting fronts around or putting defensive backs on the line or doing any of the things they used to do to throw the Colts off.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I was going to say -- the typical reasoning behind the "Colts have a harder time with 3-4 defenses" idea is that Manning and Saturday have a harder time identifying pass rushers in a 3-4. I suppose we can say that was part of the Burnett interception -- they thought he was coming, instead he dropped out. I think Manning was hit in motion on the second pick.

Ben Muth: These field goals aren't going to cut it. You need touchdowns in the red zone against the Colts.

Benjy Rose: Ha! Score one for the SNF production crew. James bobbles the kickoff, and going to commercial, the background music bed is .38 Special's "Hold On Loosely." Nice.

Ben Muth: I have a hunch that Jacob Tamme will be the Scott Mitchell of tight ends.

Aaron Schatz: Well, maybe not, since he won't be on the market for a couple years. (He was a 2008 draft pick.) If he becomes a free agent at some point, it is probably after a season where Dallas Clark is healthy most of the year and he goes back to the bench.

I enjoyed the split-screen special Freeney and Mathis camera boxes at the start of the third quarter, although I was a little worried that the Colts-Chargers game had turned into Ang Lee's "Hulk."

Ben Muth: That was really bad tackling on the interception. I know they're offensive players, but it's not that hard to shove someone out of bounds.

Aaron Schatz: Wow. And as the replay after commercial shows, Eric Weddle got away with fairly blatant pass interference on the interception.

And the rookie right guard, Jeff Linkenbach, is killing them. Antonio Garay just pushed him back into Manning full force for a sack.

The Colts special teams are definitely out-sucking the Chargers special teams tonight. These kickoff and punt returns are just dismal.

Ned Macey: The Colts always struggle with (and generally lose to) San Diego, but it is always close. For an optimistic Colts fans, it is pretty hard to watch this and not worry that this team is severely flawed. All of the other losses were forgivable/understandable, but this is an ass-whipping at home with no aspects of the team doing well.

Also, the Colts will fail to win 12 games for the first time since 2002, which is a ridiculous streak. Good thing the Jaguars lost today, so I think the Colts still have to be favored to make the playoffs, but a 10-6 team hosting NYJ or NE Wild Card weekend is not somewhere the Colts wanted to be when the season started.

Bill Barnwell: OK. I can understand punting down 22 points with four minutes left. But when you get the ball back after you've clearly given up, why do you put Manning back in?

Comments

192 comments, Last at 03 Dec 2010, 10:14am

110 Re: Bears' offense

My first instinct would be to think that it's receivers finally figuring out what to do on broken plays. Although there is one example of that not happening in the Eagles game. Knox was running a crossing route, and Cutler was forced out to his right, Knox kept running the route slightly up the field instead of coming back to Cutler. That let the DB close and break it up. Cutler looked pretty mad after that throw too.

144 Re: Bears' offense

I have noticed that as well and have shared the same frusration you have watching those other QBs turn a broken play into a big play, which the Bears never seemed to be able to do. I think all of the things you mention are factors, as well as Cutler's increased willingness to run the ball and his success doing so.

In the past few games, he turned broken plays into big passes to Knox and Bennett. Yesterday, the one broken play that stood out to me was the pass to Hester on the opening drive of the third quarter. It was great to see Cutler and Hester on the same page there. The DB covering Hester left him to defend against the run, and Hester knew where to go and Cutler knew when to pull up and make the touch pass.

81 the Bills

I know all about the drops, but here's the summation of Buffalo's overtime possessions:

4-3-PIT 41 (13:59) 8-B.Moorman punts ...

4-9-PIT 39 (9:27) 8-B.Moorman punts ...

If that's your overtime strategy as a 2-9 team, you deserve to lose.

98 Re: the Bills

In reply to by Splattered

No kidding. Playing against a team that was able to grind out safe, successful offense all day long. And Rian Lindell hitting at 56 yards is not, like, totally implausible.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

The reason to keep Manning in at the end of a blow out is so that he can complete about 3 more passes so I win my fantasy game. Throwing the INT at the end to lose the game for me is just icing :-)

89 Illegal Kick Penalty

During one of the Thanksgiving games there was a penalty on a punter (I've forgotten which team) for an illegal kick. I've seen this penalty before on occasions where someone was just kicking the ball to prevent the other team from picking it up, but this kick actually turned out reasonably well (it went about 20 yards). Seemed like a pretty smart play (I'm sure if the punter had tried to pick the ball up he would have been buried before getting off a kick).

93 Re: Illegal Kick Penalty

I want to say it was Matt Brier, in the New Orleans game.

Yes, it was a penalty because he'd never had posession of the ball, so in essence, he was kicking a fumble. However, you are definitely correct that it was a smart play. If I'm the coach, I'll take that penalty every time. Unless, of course, I can get a better snap.

94 Re: Illegal Kick Penalty

Along the same lines, the Broncos attempted an onsides kick, and the Rams player batted the ball out of bounds.

It seemed like a smart play at the time, but it was penalized for an illegal batting of the ball, giving the Broncos another chance at the kick.

Anyone have any explaination of that rule?

128 Re: Illegal Kick Penalty

Along the same lines, the Broncos attempted an onsides kick, and the Rams player batted the ball out of bounds.

It seemed like a smart play at the time, but it was penalized for an illegal batting of the ball, giving the Broncos another chance at the kick.

Anyone have any explaination of that rule?

He probably batted it forward, which is illegally advancing the ball. If he had batted it backwards it would have been fine.

I think this happened in another game not too long ago. I want to say it was a Cowboys player that batted the ball backwards on an onside kick and a flag was thrown. The ref picked it up and explained that there was no foul on the play since the ball was batted backwards.

I may be confusing the game this happened in but I am 95% sure it happened in a game within the past month. Anyone that can clarify (my explanation of the rule and what game this happened in) would be most appreciated.

130 Re: Illegal Kick Penalty

Thanks.

He deliberately batted it out of bounds. I was listening to the radio and sadly picked that moment to arrive at my destination, so I didn't hear any explaination of the rule and can't say if the ball traveled forward or backward.

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Was the Bears-Eagles game as much of a one-sided affair as it seemed the whole second half, or were the Eagles really right in it to the end? Watching the game, it looked as if the Bears were simply coasting for the last 20 minutes of the game, letting the Eagles complete passes up the middle, and content to chew up the clock and let them kick FGs. Really, the pass to Celek at the end was the only play that didn't appear dictated by Chicago.

Curious to see how the game gets reflected in DVOA.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

When the Bears scored the FG at the end of the third quarter they had out gained the Eagles approximately 330 yards to 200 and had scored 31 points to 13. At that point they seemed content to allow the Eagles to check the ball down when they were down by three scores and run off time (or timeouts) when on offense. The Eagles players seemed to make a big deal about the pick (post game) but it isn't as thought the TD was automatic and the Bears still had to go 60 odd yards to score and had time left.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Also the Eagles (well Vick) had four fumbles and recovered them all which no one notices during the game but DVOA will remember. The box score on NFL.com seems to have missed Knox's fumble - recovered by Olsen - did that stand?

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

He was ruled (probably incorrectly) down by contact, but as Olsen recovered there was no reason for a challenge. Vick's generally had good fumble luck for most of the year; I can only hope that the trend continues...

But yes, people will probably overlook Vick's fumbles, and remember Desean's drops (even on the pass that he visibly pulled back from, he had his hands on the ball... he also had a key drop in the first half in or near the endzone), especially with Reid leaving him in tears in the locker room.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Actually, looking at the play-by-play, I think Chicago may only get credit for forcing 2 fumbles. One of the fumbles was a fumbled exchange between Vick and McCoy, without any intervention by the defense, so it will only count against the Eagles DVOA, not in favor of the Bears. Also, on that horrendous play in which Peppers was untouched while Vick rolled towards his side, Vick is credited with two fumbles - I don't know if the defense gets double credit in that case, but I doubt it. After all, two fumbles on one play could only have resulted in (at most) one turnover... maybe it counts as 1.5 forced fumbles?

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I would assume they still get credit for 2 forces fumbles. Yes they could only get one turnover on the play but when they didn't get the first one causing another gave them another opportunity to get that one turnover.

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

This is a pretty good description. All game, the Bears went to extremes to prevent big plays, and doubled that effort in the fourth quarter. The Eagles moving up and down the field was expected.

It was a bit disappointing, especially after how the defense suffocated the Dolphins the week before, but the strategy was probably the correct one. I was also fairly impressed that the offense didn't go into full turtle mode and run the ball 100% of the time. And they really should have had a first down on their second-to-last drive when Cutler got the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; that was DPI on the Eagles' LB, who was shoving Forte while the ball was in the air.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I really don't understand people defending poor defensive performances by teams with big leads by stating "(team with big lead) was letting them drive down the field, in order to chew up the clock." The Bears had an 18-point lead, then they allowed the Eagles to drive to first and goal situations on two drives, and score a touchdown on a third. I find it difficult to believe that Chicago's strategy on defense was to depend entirely upon successful goal-line stands - if the Eagles had scored a touchdown on either of the goal-to-go situations, the game could easily have gone to overtime.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Well they were playing the 2nd rated offense by DVOA.

As for the Chicago defensive strategy, I think slowing clamping down as the Eagles drove was probably what the coaches were relying on. The Eagles receivers are so fast, they had to keep their safeties way back, but once the field compresses, they don't have to be as far back. The TD play seem like a fluke to me, with Vick managing one of the best throws I've ever seen to thread it into triple coverage.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I agree that it was a disappointing, possibly "bad" defensive performance closing out the game. It got much closer than it should have been.

However, I think the strategy was pretty sound, in this case. The Eagles have such an explosive offense that you have to be extra careful defending them in a comeback situation. And with Cutler being such an inconsistent and emotional QB, if the Eagles had gotten a quick score, there's a not-insignificant chance he would try to force too much to make up for it, and throw a really costly pick.

I would have liked to see a bit more pressure on Vick on the last drive, instead of just rushing the front four. Maybe dropping a lineman (Peppers?) into a spy/short zone role while a LB rushed in his place would have confused the Eagles line just enough so that Vick didn't have too much time to throw.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think that defensive plan is fine for when you have a big lead - sacrifice yardage to prevent big plays, and then clamp down inside the 25. I don't see it as poor defensive performance. What makes it potentially dangerous is when you get so conservative on the offensive side of the ball - the entire world knows you're running and you run anyway, leading to lots of 3 and outs that take 2 minutes off the clock.

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Maybe it is poor defensive performance, but it's basically the Lovie Smith model. Against most teams with competent offenses, they often allow long drives on a lot of short passes/plays, and shut it down around the 30-20 yard line. So you see a frustrating amount of 5 yard gains and soft coverages that give just enough yardage to convert a third down. As a fan it's incredibly frustrating, but it often works.

I think the idea is that the more plays the offense has to run, the more chances there are to force a mistake (fumble, INT, sack), and it really only takes one mistake to kill a drive (usually). So, as long as you're talented enough to create those mistakes, and disciplined enough to prevent big plays, and you can play well enough to stop red zone drives at field goals, you'll keep the opposing offense from scoring more than 17 or so points.

You can criticize this approach, but what happened in the 4th quarter of the game wasn't really out of character for Lovie Smith.

FWIW, as a Bears fan I didn't believe the outcome of the game was in doubt after the Bears scored their 4th touchdown. I expected the Eagles to score some, but I wasn't at all concerned even when they were lining up for the onsides kick.

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

After week 11, the Bears defense had allowed the second fewest yards per drive, so I don't believe they've been sticking with a "bend, but don't break" model for most of their games this season. Certainly they adjusted their strategy for the Eagles to place an extreme focus on taking away the deep passes, which may be justified, but the post I responded to gives excessive credit to prevent defenses:

"it looked as if the Bears were simply coasting for the last 20 minutes of the game, letting the Eagles complete passes up the middle, and content to chew up the clock and let them kick FGs. Really, the pass to Celek at the end was the only play that didn't appear dictated by Chicago."

As I pointed out, the Eagles trailed by three scores in the 4th quarter, and managed three scoring drives, each of them with good chances at scoring a touchdown. I don't believe Lovie Smith would "dictate" the Eagles repeatedly driving down the field into first and goal situations; on the two drives in which the Eagles settled for field goals, it took the Eagles just over 5 minutes to get into first and goal, where they then used up an additional 3 minutes before settling for the field goals. 2:30 minutes per drive to get inside the ten is not exactly "chewing up the clock," and depending upon the defense to repeatedly stop Vick from scoring in those situations is a risky strategy.

The biggest time mismanagement by the Eagles (even more so than the wasted timeout) was using so much time once they got inside the ten while being content to settle for field goals. I think Reid should have gone for the touchdown instead of the field goal on both drives; on the first, they were too close to settle for a field goal while trailing by more than two touchdowns, on the second, making the field goal did too little to help them - they would need to score two touchdowns in the last five minutes whether they made a field goal or not, therefore they should have gone for the touchdown despite the long distance.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I was pretty happy to see a lot of my predictions about the Bears-Eagles game come true. The Bears took away the deep pass, and limited Vick's running. He still doesn't have the accuracy to constantly hit those mid-range passes and run 10-15 play drives down the field all game.

The offense probably played it's best game of the year. No major mistakes, Cutler was throwing lasers all game long. Forte was finding holes and exploding. The receivers played to their potential and gave Cutler the help he needs.

For a somewhat interesting stat, Brian Urlacher remains undefeated against Michael Vick.

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

Yup, points to you. I agreed with a lot of your thoughts at the time but was terrified of the FOMB Curse.

I thought Marinelli nailed the defensive gameplan, great attention to detail. Try to make Vick play from behind the line of scrimmage and keep the WRs in front of the safeties. Peppers and Izzy stayed home all day, kept outside leverage when they weren't stunting and waited for help when they had to. If the ends got chipped then the tackles went penetration crazy. When they did use a spy they kept him to Vick's left as opposed to the middle of the field to force him to his right. The CBs never allowed an outside release and the safeties stayed deep. Having four defensive tackles suited up (plus Melton) kept the big guys fresh and was the right call. I thought Melton had another good game at both end and tackle which is nice since the other player the Bears picked after trading down in the second round in '09 is currently on the Jets' practice squad.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"He still doesn't have the accuracy to constantly hit those mid-range passes and run 10-15 play drives down the field all game."

The Eagles punted 3 times, Vick threw 1 interception (at the goal line), and the other drives netted 4 field goals (only 1 of which didn't have a drive at the 10 or closer) and 2 TDs (neglecting the end-of-half drive). In other words, the Eagles scored on 60% of their drives, and drove down the field to the opponent's 10 or closer 60% of the time.

Yes, he does have that accuracy to hit those passes. The Bears didn't beat the Eagles because they somehow exposed Vick. They beat the Eagles because they scored touchdowns where the Eagles scored field goals. And that had nothing to do with Vick's accuracy - it had everything to do with the constant pressure the Bears were getting.

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't know; I would say the fact the Eagles weren't getting touchdowns was at least partly a result of Vick's issues with mid-range accuracy. One of the strengths the Eagles have shown with Vick is the ability to score long touchdowns. The Bears took away the long touchdowns.

I wouldn't say Vick was exposed, either. The Bears defense was just athletic enough to take away big plays and get enough pressure on Vick to keep him from making things happen. But I do think it would have been a much different game if the Bears hadn't completely taken away the deep part of the field.

153 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I only saw them show the safety drops a couple times on replay but it looked like they were REALLY deep... seemed like there were opportunities for deep plays both over the corners and under the safeties (aka the 1st celek overthrow) and up the middle on a skinny post from the slot or a te seam... assuming they could beat the MBL in tampa 2 (i'm not sure that celek has the speed to do that). dunno if the line wasn't holding up long enough to let those routes develop but you can't take away all deep routes without going into something like quarters. Even Cover-3 can be beat deep with the right route combination and enough time. I did notice a safety rotating in on one replay, not sure if it was Cover 3 or Cover 1 but i assumed it was Cover 3 at the time...

I can't wait until they start broadcasting games with the ability to select angles like you can on the SNF streaming app.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I don't know; I would say the fact the Eagles weren't getting touchdowns was at least partly a result of Vick's issues with mid-range accuracy.

Meh, I don't really agree. The 6 red zone trips ended with 3 FGs and a pick mainly due to the Eagles offensive line not holding up (either resulting in sacks on Vick or that massive loss by McCoy). Vick missed a few receivers, but so do all QBs.

It also didn't help, in my opinion, that they constantly were ending up at 1st and goal at the 10, 8, 10, 8, etc. Still of the opinion that teams should teach receivers to go down at about the 12 if they can't get inside the 5.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

That's fair, and there was definitely blame to go around. And I'm not referring to the red zone woes so much as the fact that the Bears basically dared Vick to beat them with mid-range stuff; if he had been particularly accurate, they might have eased off on the super-deep coverage, opening up the big play. Of course, this is just speculation.

You are correct that the biggest factor was the Bears defensive line outplaying the Eagles.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I just don't understand why you're even mentioning mid-range stuff. Vick completed 66% of his passes. He was plenty accurate: the last drive, where they marched in 6-10 yard chunks down the field in 2 minutes to even have a chance at winning the game was particularly good; it's easy enough to say "well, they were playing off," but not really - they were doing that all game.

The Bears weren't going to back off of the super-deep coverage stuff so long as the defensive line was getting pressure on Vick. That's all. I actually think part of the reason the Eagles started doing well in the late 3rd/4th quarter is because the defensive line for the Bears couldn't maintain that pressure all game. Thankfully for them, their offense shortened the game by about two drives.

You are correct that the biggest factor was the Bears defensive line outplaying the Eagles.

On the Eagles offense/Bears defense side. The biggest factor in the game, without a doubt, was the Bears ability to do whatever they wanted on offense.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

"It also didn't help, in my opinion, that they constantly were ending up at 1st and goal at the 10, 8, 10, 8, etc. Still of the opinion that teams should teach receivers to go down at about the 12 if they can't get inside the 5."

I agree. I'd rather have 1st and 10 at the 15 than 1st and goal at the 9 or 10. Of course, I suppose being five yards closer to the end zone is an advantage in some was, but I wonder what is the difference in touchdown percentage between the two starting states. For a kicker, the difference should be minimal.

Saw this problem in the end of the Texans-Jets game, when the Texans intercepted that late pass. The defender went down just inside the 10 instead of going down at the 15 or whatever, meaning the Texans couldn't win the game simply by getting a first down. It was either touchdown or field goal, and I think either way - Texans up by 1, I think - the Jets would have had a chance to win or tie.

151 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm curious to see what the DVOA will be for the GB-ATL game. ATL won, but GB outgained them in yards (418 - 294) and first downs (22-19). The teams were even on 3rd/4th down effectiveness. The two big plays were the fumble (GB loses points and it even goes into the endzone for ATL instead of pinning them deep) and the 4th down (non)-catch by Gonzalez. I expect that GB's DVOA ends up higher for the game.

All four GB losses have been by 3 points. 2 were OT FGs and the other two were FGs in the last 15 seconds of the game.

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I'm not sure about that. The Falcons started their drives, on average, 30.4 yards from their own goalline; the Packers, just 17.5. Each team had 10 drives, so that's a net advantage of 129 yards for Atlanta — more than enough to make up the difference in yards from scrimmage. The Packers ran a couple more plays; committed more penalties; and were likely more boom-and-bust on offense. Also, the defensive adjustment will be greater for Atlanta (playing the #4 defense) than Green Bay (playing #19).

174 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I appreciate that you're talking about DVOA, but when deciding which team played better in a head to head match up VOA is the better measure. Who cares about opponent adjustments when the teams are playing each other? All that matters is which team was more efficient on the field. Your point about field position is valid though.

186 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I completely disagree. Without looking at the score, or other stats, if the Texans face the Jets and both Mark Sanchez and Matt Schaub have exactly the same passing line, I'm going to be far more impressed with Schaub than Sanchez (and no this is not a comment against the Sanchize or his team. Substitute the Chargers and Phillip Rivers for them, and the comment stands). I'll even go ahead and say he played better.

Now, if all you want to do is compare how the results of their perfomances matched up without adjusting for opponent, that's what we have traditional stats and the scoreboard for.

- Alvaro

187 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

What if Schaub's passing line is slightly worse than Sanchez, but his DVOA is slightly better? Would you still say he played better?

Looking at who won the DVOA battle is like looking at who beat the spread, while looking at who had a better VOA is like looking at who won the game (except that DVOA and VOA attempt to take some of the luck out of the equation).

Now, if all you want to do is compare how the results of their perfomances matched up without adjusting for opponent, that's what we have traditional stats and the scoreboard for.

Isn't the whole point of this site that traditional stats and the scoreboard don't tell the whole story, because of things like 12 yard completions on 3rd & 16, or one team recovering 6 out of 7 fumbles?

188 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

What if Schaub's passing line is slightly worse than Sanchez, but his DVOA is slightly better? Would you still say he played better?

Considering the quality of the Texans' pass defense, certainly. But what exactly is the point of that question? If you accept the premise of hte identical stats lines yielding diferent quality results for each, you are accepting the fact that Opponent adjustments matter even in a same-game situation.

Isn't the whole point of this site that traditional stats and the scoreboard don't tell the whole story, because of things like 12 yard completions on 3rd & 16, or one team recovering 6 out of 7 fumbles?

Sure. But then why are you trying to take part of said advanced stats and dismiss them? If the site has developed DVOA which is significantly better than VOA when comparing quality of performance, then why dismiss it? If you won't take advantage of it, you migth as well stick with the conventional stats, is my point.

- Alvaro

190 Re: Audibles at the Line: Week 12

I think you're wrong about using DVOA to compare two teams in a same-game situation, but right to use it to compare two QBs. Here's why:

The DVOA opponent's adjustment implicitly assumes that the opponent is playing their usual quality of football. But when you use DVOA to compare two teams in a single game, you're measuring their quality of football. When a strong team narrowly outplays a weak team, you'll end up with DVOA claiming something like "assuming that Team A played better overall, we conclude that Team B played better overall" - a logical absurdity.

You can compare two QBs that way, because the implicit assumptions that DVOA is making are about the opposing pass defenses. You can also compare two offenses, two defenses, two runningbacks, etc. You just can't combine them into a single analysis without getting a logical contradiction.

It's perfectly legitimate to have Team B rated as having the better game in every facet (as measured by DVOA), but to conclude that Team A outplayed them overall (as measured by VOA, and thus probably the score).

If you want to give this effect a name, call it the "VOA paradox".